Mitchell Arthur Lane – Sergeant First Class, United States Army

No. 646-03
Sep 02, 2003

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today that Sergeant First Class Mitchell A. Lane, 34, of Lompoc, California, died on Aug 29, 2003, in Afghanistan. Lane fell approximately 25 feet when he was conducting a fast rope infiltration into a known enemy cave complex. Lane died of his injuries.

Lane was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Thursday, September 25, 2003:


Mitch Lane sent his parents this photo from Kandahar, Afghanistan, the month before his death

Mitch Lane, the first Lompoc, California, man killed in the nation’s war on terrorism, will be remembered Saturday as his family, friends and others whose lives he touched pay tribute to his passionate and generous spirit.Lane died August 29, 2003, while quick-rappelling down a rope from a hovering helicopter during a nighttime combat assault in Afghanistan. He was a sergeant first class and special operations soldier in the U.S. Army on his second tour of duty in that country.

His former team members told Lane’s parents, Richard and Laurie Lane of Lompoc, that Lane may have lost contact with the rope because of gusty winds and turbulence, falling onto a rock and hitting his neck below the edge of his helmet. He never regained consciousness, according to his fellow soldiers.

Lane had not been scheduled to participate in the mission the night of August 28, 2003, and was expected to return home by October 1, 2003, or sooner if a military plane was available. His dedication to the men he was training prompted him to accompany the team.

“I want to go out and help them,” Lane reportedly told his commander the evening of the assault.

Lane was awarded a posthumous Purple Heart at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., adding to a long list of medals earned during his 12-year military career.

Lane’s passion, adventurous spirit and interest in serving in the military started early, his parents said. The scrapbook he started as an 8 year old includes an Army recruitment advertisement, a U.S. Navy brochure and his application to begin hunter safety training at the age of 13. At 16, he added motorcycles to his list of passions.

He became an excellent marksman and swimmer, and eventually became an instructor in underwater warfare.

The Lanes are grateful for the stories of his generosity, courage, professionalism and fun-loving nature they’ve received from hundreds of people they’ve never met from all over the country, glad to add the memories of others to those of their own.

They’ve learned that their son shared his faith selflessly and used it to comfort others, including the mother of a fellow team member who was killed in action in June 2002.

“Mitch’s words were so encouraging it was difficult not to smile and it was easy to love him and his comforting ways,” the mother they’ve never met wrote the Lanes after their son’s death.

Laurie Lane said people who knew her son well remember his beautiful heart, radiant smile and sparkling eyes.

A former Lompoc High School English teacher wrote to the Lanes that Mitch, a 1987 Lompoc High School graduate, ” … always brought joy and energy into the classroom and no doubt into the lives of all who knew him.”

Saturday’s memorial service will be at 11 a.m. at the Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Lompoc.

Mitch’s passion for everything he did, as Laurie recalls it, promises to return again Saturday as the community remembers the life and spirit of one of their own.

From a press report: 3 September 2003, Lompoc, California

Sergeant First Class Mitchell Arthur Lane, 34, a special forces soldier with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, suffered fatal injuries while descending from a helicopter during a nighttime combat assault in Afghanistan. He died of his injuries the next day, Army officials said.

Lane, who died Thursday, August 28, 2003, spoke on the telephone to his mother two days before the military accident which claimed his life.

Sally Prentiss, principal of Crestview Elementary School, where Mitchell’s mother, Laurie Lane, teaches first grade, said Laurie told co-workers her son told her he loved his work.

“He was doing what he wanted to do, that’s what he always told her. She was so glad she’d been able to talk to him and that he was able to talk to his younger brother, too.”

According to Prentiss, Laurie Lane found out about her son’s death Friday while at Crestview.

“She waited until the end of the day to tell the staff. We just gathered in the staff lounge and hugged and cried with her,” Prentiss said.

Prentiss said Lane had been in Afghanistan beginning two years ago, returned to the U.S. and later returned to Afghanistan again.

“We’ve been with Laurie on this for two years. Her friends and family are giving her all the support they can at this time.”

Lane was an Engineer Sergeant with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Force Group at Fort Bragg and had been with Army for 12 years. He enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1987 and volunteered for active duty four years later. He was selected for special force training in 1995.

Laurie and Richard Lane, along with their three other sons and their wives, left Tuesday for their son’s memorial service in North Carolina, where Mitchell resided with his wife and two young daughters.

Lane will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, according to friends of the family.

Laurie and Richard Lane, longtime residents of Lompoc, declined comment, instead asking Army officials to release information about their son. Lane’s wife also declined to speak to reporters.

Some 11,500 U.S.-led forces are helping Afghan troops in hunting down Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, primarily in the south and east of the county.

According to the New York Times, 35 American soldiers have been killed to date in Afghanistan.


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 05/21/1987 – 08/29/2003
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 06/16/1969
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/29/2003
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 09/12/2003



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